Monday, July 11, 2005

Reach out with your feelings, Use the force.

Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith debued this weekend for its one weekend showing at the Base theatre. The theatre is one of those military living perks: 2.50 per child and 5 for an adult is a sweet deal for a huge spacious theatre, Dolby Surround and cheap snacks.

Being that I am a soccermom, I packed up the boys and went. Owen and Harry, are (mother created) fans. All is routine at the theatre: the underlying sound of crunching popcorn, Harry going to the bathroom every 20 minutes, and falling asleep during the last 45 minutes. During the scene where Anakin storms the Jedi Temple and confronts a youngling "Master Skywalker what are we going to do?" was no doubt one of the most poignant moments in the film. A couple scenes later, Owen is sobbing I ask what is wrong "What happened to the little boy?' In my best movie theatre whisper I try and explain that Anakin killed him. "Why?"..."Because he turned to the Dark Side"..."Why?" more tears...the kind that flow uncontrollably down one's cheek, despite the will to hold them in.

I was actually getting weepy myself at Owen's very rare outpouring of emotion. He's a typical kid - his emotions tend to be physical or egocentric reactions - so this recent outpouring was different. I suppose I could have felt guilty about taking Owen to a film that was not rated G. But I thought this was a positive thing...I mean empathy is good right? In my experience, its hard to teach these things. I mean, he can take his little brothers favorite toys and then whack him upside the head with a profound lack of conscience and guilt. And you know the lecure about "Imagine how your brother is feeling right now...would you want someone to do that to you?" does not seem to work at the time. Maybe it does? Maybe I no longer have to fear that I am raising a sociopath.

In the van on the way home, he openly sobbed on the way home. I tried to explain that it was good to feel this way. In the back of my mind, I was thinking "what sort of sick and twisted message is he getting from this one?" I just reassured that he was okay. The I tried the "silver lining" technique.."what happy things happened in the movie". This is Revenge of the Sith - you don't get much darker than this folks. I managed to salvage the birth of Luke and Leia as the token happy event (despite the fact that their father has turned to the dark side, their mother dies in childbirth and they are seperated until Return of the Jedi).

I am beginning to realize how profoundly damaging Barney really is. Kids are being fed this sugar coated reality... (or it has some educational worth)...doesn't this perpetuate a fantasy that bad things don't happen? Chalk one up for mom and George Lucas. Reach out with your feelings Owen...


hotboy said...

I've just finished reading a kidsbook I wrote a couple of years ago, so (as a school librarian as well), I should be able to say something about this.

I told my daughter all the stories from the classics from the age of three, and scary ones thereafter. Tough subject though. Nightmares must be bad. Have to watch out.
Otherwise, the movie sounds great!

Mary P. said...

One night, my voracious reader boy, then 8, had nothing to read before bed. I gave him a book of his older sister's, Ella Enchanted (author forgotten - excellent book). The next night, he was still reading it, and he was crying! He'd been honestly touched by the plight of the star-crossed lovers. I was astounded and delighted. My response? This boy has got to start reading more "girl's books"!!

As to that question, "How would you feel if..."? I recall a radio interview not too long ago, in which the person being interviewed, who had written a book on the emotional development of boys, suggested that this is not the best way to phrase it. Rather, we should start with "What would you do if...", and then move from there into why. The physical response is the more effective way to get a boy to understand his emotional response.

Barney and his ilk? They arise from sentimental notions about childhood, and only cover half the necessary territory. We want our children to be happy, to learn to share, to be kind; but I also want my children to be compassionate, to have empathy, to know how to overcome adversity and sorrow. How will they do this if they are taught that negative experiences and emotions are to be avoided at all costs? Or, worse, that someone is to blame if they experience anything less than euphoric?

Anonymous said...

That's a really interesting perspective Heather. I didn't take Christopher (who is a HUGE Star Wars fan) to Sith because I thought it might be too upsetting ... but maybe there is something to be said for upsetting (I thought it might be easier to handle on DVD, where the screen is smaller, the experience less overwhelming, and we have the power to FF and RW as needed).


Anonymous said...

Well the classic fairy tales (brothers grim, etc) are quite dark, with action frequently motivated by the loss of parents, particularly the mother, and the threat of starvation -- Jack and the beanstalk, Hansel & Gretal.

Epic tales like star wars or the odyssey or harry potter all start with loss and hardship. Someone once said "in fairy tales as in life, when the mother dies, plot begins," as the conventional path of life is no longer possible.

Anyway, Barney and the like are not epics or fairy tales but social instruction couched as entertainment "clean-up clean-up . . ." "please and thank-you are the magic words . . ." etc.

I guess I'm quibbling over genre here. I agree that kids need exposure to epic tales to develop empathy, learn about life, loss, tragedy.

baby screaming in my ear . . I must go.

you know me as shireen!

Kim said...

There's this whole movie/book discussion going on here. I can't believe it's taken me all week to chime in! Great points by everyone. Here, we can't even watch Harry Potter because it's too scary. I know someone who has to fast forward past the beginning of Finding Nemo because the mom dies. I see your point. But, for the very young, I still think writers could be more creative with their sources of conflict than parental death.

Oh, and I love Barney! I'm sad that S didn't watch it. I hope we get baby K hooked. I kinda miss that big purple guy.